20 Apr Addressing herbicides in the LA River
Recently, concerns have been raised about the potential human health risks associated with the exposure to herbicides used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its non-native vegetation maintenance program in the LA River. In order to address these concerns, FoLAR has been in contact with the Army Corps to better understand what the potential risk and exposure could be. Simultaneously we’ve been looking at recent studies and emerging regulatory changes to herbicide use in California. FoLAR has also partnered with the local Atwater Village Neighborhood Council in support of their efforts on the issue. You can read more about this below.
A Bit of Background
In September of 2016, the Army Corps announced its plan to remove several acres of trash, debris, and non-native vegetation in the LA River to address concerns over reduced flood capacity in the LA River through the Glendale Narrows. While FoLAR and others raised concerns that herbicide use could potentially impact passive habitat restoration and biological health of the river, we acknowledged the importance of flood control considerations ahead of what proved to be record-breaking storms. While access to the pedestrian/bike path has been restored, the USACE continues to perform vegetation maintenance work in the channel through 2018.
Statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:
US Army Corps of Engineers contractors spot-apply herbicide, by hand-held sprayer, on a monthly basis, to non-native vegetation in LA River channel areas only where vegetation cutting/removal has occurred. The herbicide is Roundup Custom, which is an EPA- and DOD- approved aquatic herbicide. The Corps states that the U.S. EPA, based on long-term toxicological tests, has classified glyphosate as Category E for evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans-the most favorable cancer rating for pesticide active ingredients and one that few other products meet. They have determined the risk is sufficiently low that there is no significant risk of unreasonable adverse effects to humans or aquatic organisms under normal use conditions (including the Corps’ application technique). Studies on mammals, fish and birds indicate that these chemicals do not bio-accumulate in the food chain.
For more information, the Corps provided the link to Roundup Custom here: www.monsantoito.com
Nevertheless, as a grassroots organization, community concerns are paramount to us. We are working with the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council (AVNC) to support their proactive steps to alert the public of the potential exposure to herbicides used for vegetation maintenance. Specifically the AVNC suggests posting signage in areas to prevent the public from entering a field within 12 hours of the application, and looking at other potential methods for the maintenance of non-native vegetation that don’t require the herbicides of concern.
We encourage all interested to contact the AVNC directly and get involved.
For Our Part
In preparation for our annual Cleanup, FoLAR has taken care to inform our volunteers of the USACE activities, as well as the risk inherent with cleaning in the LA River. We have included the Army Corps’ information regarding this matter in the following forums:
- Posted at our CleanUp sites
- Posted on the CleanUp FAQ’s on our website.
- Include in our verbal safety talk that we give to every available volunteer
- Include in our site binder (information and instructions for site captains and their staff)
- Emailed to and discussed with FoLAR staff
There are of course inherent risks to cleaning an urban river and we strive where we can to mitigate them and to inform where we can’t mitigate. Because of our preparation, expertise, and thoroughly informing our volunteers of the risks, FoLAR has been conducting the river cleanup with relatively few incidents for 28 years.
We are confident the few hours spent once-a-year in the River channel to collectively improve this public, natural resource is time well spent and does not amount to a significant level of potential exposure but we leave it up to volunteers to make that decision for themselves.
Once again, thank you for your support. Please let us know if you have any questions. We will continue looking into this issue in the time to come, and we will do our best to keep you informed.